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Fossorochromis rostratus

Fossorochromis rostratus Male

Above A 9-inch Fossorochromis rostratus male. Photo by Rick Borstein


Fossorochromis rostratus FemaleFossorochromis rostratus was first typed by Boulenger in 1898, yet you don't find many accounts of hobbyist spawnings until the last ten years.

Fossorochromis rostratus is a large, mouthbrooding Malawian cichlid that reaches lengths of up to ten inches. It's a large, fast swimming piscivore and you'll need a big tank to keep it. It's also a beautiful fish, but I have seen quite a bit of difference in individual coloration. As you'd expect, they are most dramatic when in breeding colors.

This is a fish for the intermediate to advanced aquarist who is patient. Males do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least eight inches long. Plan on allowing at least two years for a fish to get this big.

One curiousity about this fish is that when frightened, it will quickly dive into the substrate and bury itself. Fossorochromis rostratus can do this with remarkable speed.


Fossorochromis rostratus is found over sand and gravel areas in the lake and may co-habit these areas with Cyrtocara moorii. Fish found over the sandy areas tend be very fast swimmers and Fossochromis rostratus is no exception. In the lake, the fish spends a lot of time sifting through the sand.

Although this fish does not have a common name, you'll hear a lot of cichlid hobbyists simply refer to them as Fossos


Fossorochromis rostratus has similar requirements to most Malawian cichlids; hard water and temperatures from 75 to 80F. Provide a soft substrate such as fine gravel or sand as this fish can be damaged by it's tendency to dive into the substrate when scared.

Because this is a large fish, I recommend a 100 gallon tank for a group of six to eight individuals. Large fast-swimming fish like these do not do well in small tanks.


Fossorochromis rostratus will quickly consume a variety of prepared foods. When young, I fed Tetra Cichlid flakes and Spirulina flakes. As the fish got older, I fed Tetra Cichlid Sticks. I have not observed this fish eat live food.


Fossorochromis rostratus is very difficult to sex until it obtains very large sizes. Subdominant males look exactly like females! For this reason alone, this can be a challenging fish to breed.

I had obtained two five-inch individuals from a fellow GCCA member and placed them in a 65 gallon tank for about ten months where they grew to 7 and 8 inches respectively. At one of the GCCA auctions, I noticed a pair of Fossos on the auction table. These big fish were bagged separately and taped together, but the male didn’t look too good. Sure enough, he had kicked the bucket by the time the item came up for bid. I picked up the female for four bucks . . . a steal for a big fish.

I brought her home in the hopes of giving my other female some competition. Can you guess what happened next? As it turned out, I didn’t have a pair of Fossos, but simply a male and a sub-dominant male. The sub-dominant male quickly colored up in the presence of the newly added female. The dominant male was not about to brook any competition, and he killed the sub-dominant male in short order. It was not pretty, but it was quick. In the morning, all the fish were fine. By evening, the sub-dominant male was a shredded floater.

Fossos aren’t really that aggressive, at least not to con-specifics in my experience, so this was kind of a surprise. A short while later, I moved the pair to a 100 gallon tank and they spawned about three weeks later.

Provide ample hiding places for the female and a large, flat rock for the pair to use as a spawning site.

I allowed the female to hold the eggs for eleven days and then stripped her of about 35 very large fry with prominent yolk sacs.

I began feeding the young fry at 20 days with Cyclops-eeze and they are fast growers. The young look exactly like the females.

Retail Price

At retail, expect to pay $9 to $12 each for 2 inch long fish. An adult pair, especially a proven pair, would be $75 to $125.


Fossorochromis rostratus isn't often found at pet shops. When young, they just are not that interesting in appearance. In addition, most shops don't have a ready clientele for fish that gets big and need large tanks.

Fossorochromis rostratus is readily available from wholesalers, however, so ask your shop to order for some if you desire this fish. This fish is occasionally available at GCCA Swap Meets and Auctions.

Report November 2002 by Rick Borstein

Cyrtocara moorii

Cyrtocara moorii The Malawi Blue Dolphin

Above Cyrtocara moorii. Male top center. Brooding female below. Photo by Rick Borstein


Cyrtocara moorii, or as it is more generally known, Haplochromis moorii, is a popular aquarium fish. Males develop a nice nuchal hump that is the source of the common name of the this fish The Blue Dolphin.

Cyrtocara moorii can grow to impressive size in aquaria with males reaching over 11 inches and females smaller at 8 inches or so. Large tanks of 75 gallons or more would be a good idea if you plan to house several adults.

The Blue Dolphin is easy to keep and adaptable, but it can be one of the more difficult Malawian cichlids to breed.

I am not aware of location variants in the hobby, but I have noticed quite a difference in various specimens I have seen. The most common type is blue fish (see Male above middle). A silvery blue fish is also available (see above right). Finally, I have seen specimens that exhibit a purplish-blue color which is very attractive.


Cyrtocara moorii is found in relatively shallow waters (3 to 15 meters deep) in Lake Malawi. Unlike mbuna, this fish is found over sandy areas of the lake. Habitat water conditions are pH range 7.2 to 8.8, dGH range 10.0 to 18.0.


Cyrtocara moorii is easy to keep. They are not demanding as far as water conditions are concerned. I kept my fish at 78F, pH 7.2 with no problems. I performed weekly 40% water changes. These fish are slow growers.


These fish are not fussy eaters. I fed cichlid flakes, Tetra Cichlid Sticks (aka Doromin), Aquadine duraflakes, spirulina flakes, etc.


These fish are definitely a project for two reasons. Firstly, they are so timid they really do best in a species tank. Secondly, they need to be five to six inches and close to eighteen months old before they breed.

I purchased several fry at one of GCCA's Auctions and grew them up, moving them into successively larger tanks until they were just over five inches long.

In anticipation of breeding this fish, I moved the blue dolphins into a 125 gallon tank with a breeding group of Protomelas spilonotus. While there was not any inter-species aggression, the blue dolphins clearly weren't comfortable with these tankmates. Once I sold the Protomelas, the blue dolpins were much happier, but still wouldn't spawn. I had left a single, male Copadochromis borleyi in the tank. Once I removed the borleyi, the Blue Dolphins began spawning every six weeks or so, generally after a water change. The spawning I witnessed occurred over a flat slate in typical fashion.

Brooding females exhibit a different color pattern (see above) which included mottled black areas. My guess is that this is a signal to males that courting this female won't be a very useful activity. Indeed, my male left the brooding female to herself.

In my experience, females are very shy holders. I couldn't get a female to hold on her own past eight days. Mind you, this was with four adults with a 125 gallon tank to themselves. I was starting to get upset, as I really wanted to turn these fish in for GCCA's Breeders Award Program! One time, when I went to net out the female, she spat the eggs into the gravel before I was able to catch her.

After losing four spawns, I took matters into my own hands. I netted our a dazed female after turning the tank lights on first thing in the morning. I stripped this female the day after she spawned of forty eggs and moved the eggs to an artifical brooder. I added Acriflavin Plus to the hatching tank and lost about fifteen of the eggs. The fry were free-swimming in about 14 days. I fed the fry Cyclops-eeze and Golden Pearls and eventually transitioned them to crushed flake food. They are a month old now and about half an inch long. BAP at last!

Retail Price

At retail, two-inch fish are generally $7 to $12 US. Adults are much harder to find and more expensive. Expect to pay at least $20 for a fully-colored male at 5 inches.


Cyrtocara moorii is easy to find. It's a hardy fish, so you will find them at your local fish store. One reason I think this fish remains popular is the common name-- Blue Dolphin. It seems like every cichlid book has an impressive picture of this fish, so a lot of beginners know what this fish is and what it looks like.

If possible, buy your fish from a local breeder. Since there are color variants, it's a good idea to see the adult fish prior to purchasing fry.

Report June 2002 by Rick Borstein

Cynotilapia afra

Cynotilapia afra

Cynotilpia afra "Cobwe ". Photo by Rick Borstein.


Cynotilapia afra is a species that consists of many color variations. Each locality in Lake Malawi is differen tfrom the next. Cynotilapia afra was extremely popular during the 80’s but because of overpopulation it has lost some popularity. Today some color varieties are common and others are rare. Cynotilapia afra "Cobwe", pictured here, is one of the more desirable because of it’s incredible color and it’s ability to turn it on and off as if on a switch. Cynotilapia. afra is sometimes confused with the many varieties and colors of Pseudotropheus. Anatomically, they are very similar except that Pseudotropheus generally reach a larger size than Cynotilapia afra and Pseudotropheus have bicuspids and Cynotilapia afra have a unicuspid. A newer import, P. demasoni, one of the smaller Pseudotropheus is a good size match for Cynotilapia afra.


Cynotilapia afra is fairly well represented throughout Lake Malawi with pockets of color varieties scattered about. They are cave dwellers and dart about the rocky bottom searching for food and mates. They are incessant diggers and will turn a tank upside down in a short time.


Setting up an aquarium with a sandy bottom and lots of caves will make Cynotilapia afra feel right at home. Although males and females attain a size of only 4 inches, they are rather aggressive and should be treated as such. They are extremely hardy fish and again, like the P. demasoni, they can hold their own with larger fish. Of course, being a Lake Malawi cichlid, they like hard, alkaline water and a temperature range of 74-84 degrees.


Truthfully, they eat anything fed them such as earthworms, bloodworms and brine shrimp. Cynotilapia afra are mbuna and therefore a diet consisting mainly of vegetable matter is best. A good spirulina flake is all they need, but I give mine a weekly feeding of earthworms which they attack with fervor.


Cynotilapia afra are polygamous mouthbrooders and one male with about 6 or 8 females works great in a 50 breeder. More than one male is fine but be sure that you have adequate protection in the form of caves, flowerpots, PVC, etCynotilapia I presently have one male and three females in a 75 gallon tank along with a wild pair of Aulonocara hansbaenschi "Mozambique Cobue" and one male and three females of Aulonocara sp. "Albino Eureka". Although the Cynotilapia afra male is greatly outsized, he is the "King" of the tank. Cynotilapia afra breed about every thirty days and carry anywhere from 15-30 eggs, but the longer you let the female brood, the longer the interval will be between spawns.

Retail Price

Fry Up to $20
Adults $20-$40

These are general prices and they can vary immensely by color variety. Some varieties which are bred in Florida will be cheaper than others that aren’t.

Report April 2000 by Jim Stigliano

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